‘Planning and organisation’ went into State-led Rohingya violence
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‘Planning and organisation’ went into State-led Rohingya violence

THE widespread and systematic nature of the State-led violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma (Myanmar) “points to prior planning and organisation,” according to a new report released Monday by the UN Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar.

They also said any attempt to deny the atrocities being committed in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states was “untenable,” and pushed for an independent body to start collecting evidence to prosecute those responsible at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee (right) gives her report next to Marzuki during the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 12, 2018. Source: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

“The body of information and materials we are collecting is concrete and overwhelming,” Marzuki Darusman, former Indonesian Attorney-General and chair of the Fact-Finding Mission said when delivering the group’s interim oral report to the UN Human Rights Council.

“It points at human rights violations of the most serious kind, in all likelihood amounting to crimes under international law.”

Darusman was joined by fellow experts Radhika Coomaraswamy of Sri Lanka and Chris Sidoti of Australia.

The report was based on information gathered from a series of missions to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, where teams of investigators conducted over 600 in-depth interviews with victims and witnesses of reported human rights violations and abuses.

The group detailed “gross human rights violations,” including indiscriminate shooting at fleeing villagers, burning of elderly and children alive in their homes, hacking people to death, and sexual violence towards women and girls.

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“All the information collected so far points to violence of an extremely cruel nature,” the report said. “We have ample and corroborated information on brutal gang rapes and other forms of sexual violence against women.”

“We have numerous accounts of children and babies who were killed, boys arrested, and girls raped.”

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Ten Rohingya Muslim men with their hands bound kneel in Inn Din village in a picture taken on Sept 1, 2017. Source: Handout via Reuters

While much of the attention of the Rohingya crisis has focused on Rakhine State, where some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh, the research also looked at Kachin and Shan State.

The report expressed concern over a spike in reported human rights violations in the region that have resulted in significant displacement of population, further exacerbating a “longstanding humanitarian crisis.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee also spoke of her experience investigating the unfolding crisis. She said “crimes under international law” have been committed against the Rohingya.

According to The Guardian, Lee also called for the creation of an independent body to investigate and gather evidence of human rights violations. This could then be used to place those “individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups” on trial for their crimes.

While Lee expressed hope that de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi would eventually put a stop to the campaign of violence, she also said the government leadership who did not intervene must also be held accountable.

The UN has been denied access to Rakhine since late last year, so both Lee and the fact-finding mission have been forced to conduct their investigations in Cox’s Bazaar in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are now living in refugee camps.